The Ramaciotti Foundations last night awarded two researchers from The University of Western Australia nearly $145,000 to help better understand the risk of life-threatening infections in premature babies and the genetics of glaucoma, the world's leading cause of irreversible blindness.
Doctor Tobias Strunk from UWA's Centre for Neonatal Research and Education will use the grant to explore the origin and development of antimicrobial proteins and peptides (APP) in premature babies and understand how these relate to the risk of life-threatening infections.
"Understanding how the APP system works in premature babies is likely to help identify those infants at highest risk of infection and ascertain new avenues to prevent bloodstream infections. To reduce the huge burden of infection, we need to understand why the immune system of premature babies makes them so vulnerable and what we can do to safely boost their immune responses," Dr Strunk said.
Dr Alex Hewitt from the Lions Eye Institute will conduct research into the genetics of glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. He will examine people who carry the genetic changes that predispose to glaucoma, with the aim of developing a laboratory model for studying patients' eyes without requiring their eye tissue.
"The grant from the Ramaciotti Foundations means we can kick-start this exciting research. Currently, no one else has published a study on human glaucoma-related stem cell work, so we have the opportunity here in Australia to take a lead in this new research area," Dr Hewitt said.
Each year the Ramaciotti Foundations, managed by Perpetual, support biomedical research through significant distributions via the Ramaciotti Awards, providing assistance to areas of research such as molecular biology, genetics and immunology, and assisting young researchers taking up new challenges in biomedical research.
The Ramaciotti Foundations were established in 1970 by Vera Ramaciotti. Since then, the charitable trusts have donated more than $52.5 million to biomedical research.
Dr Alex Hewitt (UWA Genetics and Population Health) (+61 8) 9381 0756
Dr Tobias Strunk (UWA Centre for Neonatal Research and Education) (+61 8) 9340 1260
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783